Paramount // 2005 // 1039 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 25th, 2007
"Here's to Aiden!"
As series creator Anthony Zuiker suggests in the included featurette "Top of the Heap," Season Two was all about a new look and a new vibe for CSI: New York. The third spin-off distinguished itself from Vegas glitz and Miami sun with urban funk, sarcasm, and darkness. That sounds good to me...but nonetheless Season Two is sunnier, with lots of airy steel and glass as counterpoint to sheathed (but still potent) tongues.
Introverted Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) heads up a team of Big Apple detectives. Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes, Providence) is wry and no-nonsense, while Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo, Shasta McNasty) is a wisecracking womanizer. Dr. Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper, Love, Sex and Eating the Bones) moves from the mad laboratory to the streets, but retains his unsupressable energy. Detective Don Flack (Eddie Cahill, Lords of Dogtown) does his best to channel the grimy pavement of New York City, while fresh-faced Midwestern newcomer Det. Lindsay Monroe (Anna Belknap, Medical Investigation) does her best to crack the dour facade of this urban CSI unit.
The second season kicks off with a special New York moment: a skyscraper climber falls to his death after being in close proximity to the death of a slimy, high-powered lawyer. The espisode itself is rather dull, but the color commentary more than makes up for the flat plot. Like all CSI entries CSI: New York is high style, and New York has style to spare.
With Season Two, CSI: New York makes a pitch for "just right." You know the routine...CSI is too cool, CSI: Miami is too hot, but CSI: New York is just right! For that to work, Zuiker had to shed the dark, bitter edge of Season One and strike a balance between humor, darkness, drama, and logic. Though the end result is not just right, CSI: New York takes second place over the unfathomably bad CSI: Miami.
For a series anchor, Gary Sinise's Mac Taylor is plain. He is all about the crime scene, protocol, and efficiency. He allows himself to vent and make jokes, but he is the straight man. Given the colorful cast around him, this is the right call. You may remember rosy-cheeked Eddie Cahill as Tag from Friends. But Det. Flack is as stone faced as detectives with rosacea come. Danny is a nervous bundle of spikes, while Stella Bonasera is a chameleon with a quick comeback and mean uppercut. The cast of CSI: New York is allowed to breath, to express themselves and banter a bit without the wet blanket of, say, a David Caruso on standby to douse the fun. In their midst, Mac Taylor is a steadying influence, the eye at the center of the storm. It doesn't hurt that Sinise has the charisma to play it quiet and still be effective. By the end of the season I found myself emotionally involved with the characters, to the point where I felt the suggestion of actual tears (somewhere near my esophagus) during the heartstring-pulling "Heroes." CSI: New York finds a vibe that works.
This vibe is thrown into high relief with "Manhattan Manhunt," the second part of a two-part story begun in CSI: Miami: The Complete Fourth Season. It is impossible not to compare the humid, empty "Felony Flight" to the rousing and much more compelling "Manhattan Manhunt." The cast seems four-dimensional in comparison to the cardboard cops in Miami, and the stakes seem real instead of plastic. Even Caruso fits better in CSI: New York than he does in Miami. When Mac Taylor takes over, the case suddenly finds footing. Taylor's final conversation with the perp says more with less than entire episodes of CSI: Miami.
Though the extras in CSI: New York: The Complete Second Season are not extensive, they are decent. "A New Look from the 35th Floor: CSI:NY Set Tour" is fluff, with Anthony Zuiker showing off a bunch of computers. Far more entertaining is "Top of the Heap: The Cast and Crew Look at Season 2," which actually critiques the show. Sinise is particularly humble and analytical about the show's future, while Anna Belknap is hysterical when she discusses her first day on set with a pig hanging from the ceiling. The commentaries and episode-specific featurettes are good examples of their genres, digging in just deep enough to inform and entertain. Fans will want more, but the features are perfectly adequate.
Like all CSI boxed sets, this one looks and sounds good. The show is particular about its look and feel, and the DVD transfers reflect that care.
Though the cast is allowed to breathe and several episodes highlight individual characters, CSI: New York still doesn't overtake the original show in terms of cast cohesion. For the first half of the season, it seemed like the characters were trying on different shades of personality to find one that fit best. Likewise, the plots are not as tight. Even the showroom episode "Manhattan Manhunt" has several minutes of inexplicable filler, such as a superfluous subway meeting between Mac and the perp. CSI: New York needs some refinements before it is just right.
The set should include the first half of the NY-Miami crossover episode, "Felony Flight." Forcing people to buy two boxed sets to see one story is cheesy.
I can't help but suggest that CSI: New York should be filmed in New York. Then you'd have a unique entry in the CSI franchise. As it stands, CSI: New York is an engaging and emotionally mature show with plot filler and unsteady characters. It isn't so much in the shadow of CSI as in the penumbra waiting to emerge into full light.
For impersonating New York City, the court finds Burbank, CA guilty and sentenced to probation.
Review content copyright © 2007 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 1039 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries on "Summer in the City", "Grand Murder at Central Station", "Manhattan Manhunt", "Bad Beat", and "Trapped"
* A New Look from the 35th Floor: CSI:NY Set Tour
* "Heroes" featurette
* Top of the Heap: The Cast and Crew Look at Season 2
* Rolling with "Jamalot"
* Season 2 Ends with a Bang
* DVD Verdict Review of Season One